Nearly 100 bottlenose dolphins from a 'superpod' have been taken from Japan's Taiji and forced into captivity, according to an activist group.
The fishing village has become infamous due to the hunts, which local fishermen defend as being part of their tradition.
Some of the dolphins are killed for the meat, while others are taken and sold to zoos and aquariums.
On Friday a 'superpod' of around 300 dolphins were driven into a cove, corralled off and trapped by nets.
Activists from anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd have been documenting the hunt on Facebook Live and say the animals have been split up over the days as part of a selection process.
Around 100 were seen to be taken captive in the past five days, mostly juveniles, while those that remained were driven away on Tuesday (NZ time), exhausted and swimming slowly after their ordeal.
"Fortunately this is the end of this nightmare for this pod of bottlenose dolphins," one of the activists says in a livestream.
At least four others died from the "stress and starvation" they experienced while trapped.
"They were not slaughtered, they were slowly murdered by stress from the cruel captivity methods," Sea Shepherd says.
Only a day before the remaining dolphins were freed, one managed to escape and was free to swim out to the open sea.
But instead, it remained in the cove.
"Dolphins are incredibly socially bonded creatures, and will not leave their pod behind," Sea Shepherd says.
"This is why cutting the nets would not work, as their loyalty to their family would prevent them from leaving any members of the pod behind."
Sea Shepherd says all of their 'Cove Guardians' follow the laws and regulations of the country they're in, which means they weren't able to cut the nets to free the dolphins themselves.
Last year Japan's zoos and aquariums voted to stop using dolphins caught in the controversial hunt, but the animals are also sold to aquariums in China and the Middle East.